The Missing Years

Alienation is a cruel experience because it removes from a child or young person the opportunity to engage with all of the aspects of people who love them in ways that enable them to accept that people can do good and bad things.  It causes children and young people to adopt coping mechanisms of cutting out or running off, of avoidance of conflict and of heightened self righteousness in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the brain of the child, the critical firing of neurons and synapses fails to take place and the opportunity to build conflict resolution skills, perspective and a strong sense of self is lost. The false self  which emerges through the missing years when a child is alienated is a ghost like persona, fragile and uncertain, masking fears and anxieties and a sense of self which is both over inflated and crumbling all at the same time.  What happens to children and young people who are pushed into an alienation reaction is that so much more is lost than the relationship with a once loved parent. That is why prevention of this harm done to children is so essential, those missing years steal more than love from a parent, they steal the very chance a child has to build a normal and secure sense of self.

I work with children who are being alienated, who are alienated and who are struggling to recover from alienation. I meet them almost daily in my work and I understand that what they are experiencing is a complex trauma which is deeply hidden from the outside world. So well hidden in fact that most of the children I work with do not know it is there and most of them would tell me and anyone else who asks them that they do not need help thank you very much, apart from help in removing the target of their hatred from their lives.  Work in such circumstances is counter intuitive, it is against the grain of what we are taught in our society and what we believe about children.  A child’s decision to eradicate a  parent is often accepted on the basis that the parent must have done something bad or that the child needs to be protected from conflict. If we only knew what we were condemning children to when we allow this to happen, many more of us would work harder, strive longer and find more creative ways of keeping children engaged with the parent they have ‘chosen’ to be rid of in their lives.

There is increasing evidence which  demonstrates that the underlying problems which arise as a result of rejecting a parent, leaves the  child carrying a burden which grows heavier as they get older.  Children who are allowed to reject a parent and pretend that the parent no longer exists, fail to learn many  soft skills that are essential in life if one is to navigate the relational world successfully. Children who have been alienated grow up believing that only their perspective on the world is the true reality and that avoiding people who do not share their world view is a normal way to behave. As young people grow, those missing years of relationship with a parent means that they do not have the opportunity to learn that parents are people who provide boundaries and they miss the chance to respond normally to the differences which are eventually expressed between parents and  their children on the road through to adulthood.  This is why alienated children will eventually struggle. The vital relationships with provide them with the opportunity for healthy brain development which in turn gives them sound relational skills and capacity have been cut out of their lives.  If only those working with families in these circumstances knew the extent of the damage being inflicted when a child’s ‘decision’ to reject a parent after separation is being upheld.

Recovery from being alienated is about being able to learn that people can behave in ways which are good and bad and that those behaviours do not need to trigger a defence mechanism of believing that bad behaviour means a person is wholly bad. This is an extraordinary task to achieve if the capacity of the brain is limited because a person has been using the coping mechanism of psychological splitting.  There is evidence that people with personality disorders for example, do not have a well developed corpus callosum. This is a bridge which divides the two hemispheres of the brain and which is made up of a bundle of fibres which enable communication between the two sides of the brain. A well developed bridge assists with a balanced use of the brain, in studies however, people with borderline personality disorder are seen as having a less developed corpus callosum, as are those with high conflict personalities who lack the relational skills to see other people’s perspectives.

All of this evidence is convincing us at the Family Separation Clinic that what we see in children and young people who are attempting to reject or resist contact with a parent after separation are behaviours which will, if they are upheld, lead to longer term problems for the children concerned. Problems which will not be readily resolved because the missing years of that parental relationship and the lack of resolution of the child’s efforts to utilise a coping mechanism which is harmful,  leads to a  lasting gap in the child’s capacity to achieve positive and healthy brain function.  Fortunately we also know that about the plasticity of the brain and its capacity to continue to grow and change. Which means that whilst those missing years can never be regained, there is a possibility for repair and recovery should the young person be enabled to resolve the splitting which prevents reconnection to the lost loved one.

Missing years, missing knowledge, missing opportunities to prevent harm being done to children in the critical years of their lives.  Isn’t it time that someone noticed that the gap which opens up between parents after separation causes children to have to deal with something more than conflict?

This is another Huffington Post Blog for W/C February 15 2016

23 thoughts on “The Missing Years

  1. I will be sending a copy of this blog to the Director of Education and Children Services to be aware that, “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; It yields no grain.(Hosea 8:7)
    It beholds all on this site and those followers on Facebook to send a copy of this quintessential blog to those Directorates of Education and Children Services in each Local Authority they live.
    I am sure that when the relevant legislation be enacted to outlaw parental alienation as has been actioned in Brazil and Mexico, and hopefully soon in the USA, the Parent Separation Clinic will be asked for their consultancy in providing the requisite empirical evidence towards it wording, Thank you.


  2. I think there are two separate problems in alienation cases that cause damage to the children. The first is the lack of contact with a loving parent means missing out on important experiences etc which would aid normal development of the child. However, if the alienating parent is personality disordered that brings a set of separate factors into play. It sometimes seems to me that these parents alienate their children not just from their other parent and extended family, but the rest of the normal world too. There is a them and us mentality. The child at home may be parentified/spousified and spend a lot of time anticipating the needs of the alienating parent at the expense of the child’s own need yet if any external perceived criticism is elicited at the child however deserved, ranks will close and the child will be shielded from any learning experience that might be there and instead presented with a black and white view of the world.


    1. The concern in these issues is that the alienating parent is able to convince the authority figures that they are normal and the other parent and family members are not.

      This may be the is the abnormal behaviour of a DSM5 – NPD mimicking dysfunctional behaviour than that of the normal parent.

      I suggest that more details on this should be addressed on all alienation cases to the Parental Abduction Website.

      These issues can only be resolved by changes in legislation. Unless a parent and/or a second filial relative has a conviction of child abuse then to protect the child they have to maintain a physical relationship with all in their first and second filial family members.

      This occurs in Mexico and Brazil where women are more balanced in their minds after child birth. Some are suggesting that this form of “umbiliciits” (the post physical loss of a child) is trauma related to a possible hormonal deficiency and is never rebalanced. Search out all rabid feminists who seek to possess a child and act psychologically like possessed demons. Sorry but the testing of levels of post birth hormones is the duty of the care body supporting the woman post the weaning period. It is then that the alienating epoch begins. We need a much more science based understanding than the current psychobable associated with the misunderstanding of those who may be possessed by post trauma syndromes of child birth! Our women need to be provided with the proper welfare in this manner so as not tempted to alienate and abuse their children because professionals fail in their real duty of care, for children, their families and ultimately society as KW declares regularly in her blog, by analysing the consequences!


      1. Wow as a Samaritan this gives me hope and I realise that the person writing the response above fully understands the needs of children for not only their best interests but better.
        I am also relieved to read about the support that is required for women who may develop such miscreant behaviour by initiating alienation long before acting it by destroying the relationship of the children with at least half their family. Thank goodness we have a precedent as given from Brazil and Mexico? from whom we can learn and ensure that our legislators enact the required parity legislation which ensures full engaged rights to parental responsibility…not just the term “shared parenting” as the latter does not relate to the necessary responsibility which the former assumes.
        Now all we need to do is to write to our MP’s apart from John Henning and Caroline Lucas to demand such rights for parents and all in a child’s life who provides the responsible caring they need for their development and comprehensive best interests.


  3. It seems to me that alientators are bullies, even with their own children. For example, mum must have text my 11 year old grandson some time this morning to make sure he got a shower as they were going out. He did not see the message. Consequently when he got to my house he had to rush upstairs to get a shower. The panic in his eyes when he realised that his mother was waiting outside and he wasn’t ready. Mum sent her own clothes in so
    he had to get changed twice. He was panicking and rushing. He asked for a deodourant spray. Horrible to see the effect mum had on her 11 year old son. Change overs are usually quite quick, so to witness a child stressed and panicked like this is quite rare. Just imagine when that child is at home with an alienator who has all the time in the world to work on the feelings of the child, what the child has to endure and why loyalties can be divided and even severed. What chance do children have against a determined alienator?


  4. How timely Karen, I have just returned from the UK and tried to contact my daughter by text. I was surprised to receive not 1, but 3 responses asking why I wanted to see her, followed by false accusations!!! I had deluded myself into thinking after so much time my daughter may be healing, but sadly this is not the case. As the years go by she appears to deteriorate even more and no longer has a sense of reality. Its amazing work you do for the children/grandchildren but what help and therapy is out there for the Alienated??? I receive many requests on my website from adults in the same position as me and as yet have not found a specialist who can deal with the stand alone alienated who has no opportunity of contact with their children. Please correct me if I am wrong but from my understanding you only deal with Children/Teenagers working with their parents?


    1. HI Linda, no absolutely not the case, we have a coaching and emotional support service for alienated parents at the Family Separation Clinic and coaches and therapists who work with those who are completely alienated to enable them to cope and deal with the experience and to build strategies for long term routes to assist children who are ready to connect to do so. Anyone wanting to work with one of our therapists or coaches can email us at to book an appointment either face to face or by Skype. We also occasionally run courses and workshops for fully alienated parents and on our new site Parental Alienation Direct will offer forums for discussion. Finally we will be running a retreat for alienated parents in the south east of England this autumn. The retreat is to support those who have to cope with long term living loss to find meaning in life whilst coping with the suffering that such an experience brings. You will find more information at the Family Separation Clinic throughout the year.


      1. It ‘s not for the alienated parents , that you should run the clinique possibly, but for the alienated children at the most, so they can be helped. Then it is the judges – they should be sent for therapy, while being suspended from doing their judicial duties in family courts. Everything else is a pupulistic polititical play.


  5. Karen
    If I could please ask
    have you( or the clinic) ever worked with/ on cases of children who are disabled( sensory) and who also may fall into religous indoctrination( eg parent seeing themselves as a sinner for having a disabled child). I did ask social services/child services about the denial of treament meted out to my child by the other parent and they stated its a child protection issue, but nothing can be done because outside of UK jurisdiction ( and the local jurisdiction is very religous but ignorant to such matters on disabled children).

    secondly how old is considerd too old to try and undo the alienaton damge for a child?
    is it too late once they reach adulthood?

    look forward to the alienation direct website- think I will be using it a lot.

    thanks again for your wonderful work to everyone affected by this “cancer” on society.


  6. Following divorce and separation from my children, I obtained a court contact order for 1 1/2 hours per month. Both children were keen to see me at every visit and I saw no sign of alienation at all. At 16 when the court order expired they came to see me frequently and we spent many happy hours together. Both are grown up now (girl 19 and boy 21) Nevertheless, many of the characteristics and coping mechanisms you ascribed to alienation are visible in both of my children. Children from intact loving families witness the daily dynamic between both parents, which over time, etches the blueprint for normal family relations. In a single parent family there may be no parental conflict, but neither is there any interaction to witness between two people who are less than perfect. If it is true that children learn what they live, then my children have learned how to cut and run, not resolve conflict. Equally as bad, the years of father separation halted the process of learning countless life skills essential to survival. Both children were deprived of what I had to give, but especially my son. Using the analogy of the computer, my son has a powerful processor but missing/faulty programmes on the hard drive. Unlike the computer, humans can’t be fixed in a day. Learning is a process not an event, and that process was halted on the day I had to leave the marital home. I worry about both of them constantly. Given the current rate of family breakdown, the chances are that they will hook up with someone from a broken home. What chance will that relationship have of succeeding when neither have the blueprint? I have no statistics to back this up, but my instincts tell me that we have entered a cycle of deprivation from which there will be no recovery. The problems caused by family breakdown are occurring faster than they can be fixed. Despite governments telling us how valuable families are, I see no sign that they are trying to find a cure for this epidemic. You don’t suppose that secretly they are quite happy with this situation?


  7. I have been dealing with this since my first grandchild was born almost 20 years ago. It is possible that the mother has borderline personality disorder, although I am not a therapist, and that is my opinion.
    You feel so lonely in this situation.
    In the last 10 years it went down to absolutely no visitation for my son. He spent money and time that he didn’t have to try to get visitation restarted, but the kids refuse. The Court found all of my sons failures and put Mom on a pedestal. The rejection my son feels makes it so hard for him to fight. I know he has buried his pain and I worry what it will eventually do to him. He is remarried and has more children which poses a problem as well.
    I could write volumes. I will stop now as I am sure this is a common story.


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